The work of the two artists in this show could not possibly be more different, yet each, in its own way, portrays something near and dear to the artist’s heart. While Susan Isaacson explores the seasons of life, Jeffrie Chirchirillo captures the seasons of formal gardens through his portraits of various water lilies and their habitats.
In her artist statement about this series, titled “We Share the Same Breath,” Isaacson draws upon her emotions at the time of her daughters leaving home. She writes, “It was as if we had traded places; they were looking forward while I was looking back.” She found solace from feelings of loss by pondering the similarity of nature’s cycles, arriving at the conclusion that everything is cyclical, and generation follows generation, creating bonds between history and families. Isaacson chose to show this work in diptychs because “each breath is both an inhale and exhale,” with the pairings gazing into both the past and the future.
The diptychs are numbered, rather than titled, enabling viewers to draw their own conclusions. In the image “No. 7,” a young woman braids her hair against a backdrop of the window of a house while in the second image, tall branches surround distant windows. In the image “No. 2,” what appear to be willow branches blowing in the breeze, while in the paired image light voile curtains ripple at a window, seemingly in the same breeze, years apart. A white fur stole appears in several photographs of women of different ages, as if it is a thread connecting the past to the present. With this series, Isaacson has succeeded in taking us on her journey with her, time traveling within a family’s memories.
Chirchirillo, on the other hand, presents crisply factual images of water lilies in his series, “The Water Lily Family Photo Album.” They are well-crafted photographs, some of whole ponds and others, formal portraits of single blooms. Some of the large floating lily pads are so perfect as to be almost plastic in appearance. Two of my personal favorites are “Lotus Flower Bud 8293” and “Garfield Park Conservatory Water Lilies Blushed with Amber, 9499,” largely due to their simplicity, colors and compositions.
Chirchirillo has also created a sort of three seasons captured at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond. He gives us summer, spring and autumn. Like Vivaldi, I would have preferred to see a fourth, winter version—water lilies or not. A few images are framed in heavy backlit shadow boxes—a bit too gimmicky for such photographs, but I am partial to his use of framed but unglazed work for most of the images—matte paper is lovely for nature photography and the work comes so much more to life without the reflection of glass.
While the pairing of these two artists is a bit unexpected, each of them has made beautiful and meaningful work that speaks to the continuum of life. And it does go on.
“Jeffrie Chirchirillo: Water Lily Family Photo Album; The Early 2000s—Volume I” and “Susan Isaacson: We Share The Same Breath” are on view at Perspective Fine Art Photography, 1310 Chicago, Evanston through November 26.